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Snoring and Sleep Apnea: Similarities and Differences

You could chronically snore but not have sleep apnea and vice versa. While snoring and sleep apnea have similar causes and symptoms, they have some key differences. Both range in severity and similar treatments may help with either. However, one of these can have serious risks if not addressed.

If someone has mentioned that you snore and you don’t sleep well, keep reading to learn if your snores indicate something serious.

What Is Snoring?

Snoring happens when the soft tissue in and around your sinuses and mouth vibrates when you breathe while asleep. Many people snore occasionally without serious problems. This issue doesn’t obstruct your ability to breathe, though it can be loud enough to annoy your bed partner.

Snoring has similar causes as sleep apnea. You are more likely to snore if you have swollen nasal or throat tissues, such as that caused by allergies, or if you smoke. Obesity and alcohol use can also increase your chance of chronic snoring. Certain health conditions also contribute to the problem.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

You will likely snore if you have sleep apnea, but that symptom alone isn’t enough for a diagnosis. Sleep apnea also involves interference with your ability to breathe, especially when you have obstructive sleep apnea. With this condition, you have momentary pauses in your breath and sometimes choke or gasp for air. You will experience momentary wakefulness throughout the night though you might not remember it.

Sleep apnea comes in two different forms: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is when something blocks the airflow. Your body tries to breathe, but the air won’t flow past the obstruction. With central sleep apnea, the part of the brain that regulates the breath doesn’t function. Your body simply stops breathing.

How Do Sleep Apnea and Snoring Affect You?

If you snore, you may feel fatigued or less rested in the daytime. Snoring issues usually don’t cause significant health problems compared to sleep apnea. Get evaluated if you snore chronically or snore loud enough to affect other people. Frequent problems may indicate a health issue.

Sleep apnea causes serious health problems and quality of life problems. With sleep apnea, you feel totally wiped out in the morning and foggy. You could have morning headaches and trouble with concentration. Sleep apnea also has a connection to serious heart problems.

How Do Treatments Between the Two Differ?

Treatments for both conditions depend on the cause. Usually, treatments for simple snoring require small changes in lifestyle. For example, your doctor may ask you not to smoke and to lose some weight. You may need to change your sleep position so you are not on your back. Some people benefit from over-the-counter anti-snore devices like nasal strips or decongestants.

Some cases of mild sleep apnea may benefit from simple lifestyle changes. If obesity is the primary cause, your doctor may help you lose weight. Treatments depend on whether you have central or obstructive sleep apnea. Your doctor may try different devices to help you breathe easier at night. Surgery is an option if all other options do not work.

When Should You See a Doctor for Sleep Apnea?

See your doctor if you think you might have sleep apnea or frequently fail to have a good night’s sleep. If you get early treatment, you reduce serious risks. Your doctor may require you to do a sleep study for a thorough diagnosis.

Both sleep apnea and snoring affect how you feel and function throughout the day. Many sinus-related issues can cause or contribute to either problem. GNO Snoring & Sinus can help you with many sinus problems that contribute to sleep difficulty. We care for patients with allergies, nasal polyps, and other issues that affect your nighttime breathing. Contact us for an assessment.